I broke up with a girl. On Valentine’s Day. Over e-mail. I know. It was bad. I knew it at the time, too, but I felt like I didn’t have any choice in the matter. She was obsessed.
Unrequited love, I know thee well old friend. I had been on the other side of it for so long it felt utterly strange to have someone want me in a way I didn’t want her. And as such, I had absolutely no idea how to deal with it. I know, this isn’t make you feel any better about what I did and how I did it, but I didn’t know another way.
We met at the Temple University Library, in the reference section. No, it wasn’t the premier hangout spot on campus, over by the microfiche machines, but it was where we both happened to be at the time. You see, she worked in that dusty archive, and I was a slave to the circulation desk upstairs, on a mission at the time to find something for a patron. I have no clue what it was after all this time, but suffice it to say I had a question about microfiche. And we met.
I would say that our eyes met across the room and we clicked instantly, but I would be lying. She was mousy and I was gangly. We both wore glasses so that meant we were supposed to be together, right? Obviously in her mind we were. I found out later that she had her eye on me since I first started working at the library, and had just been looking for her opportunity to talk to me. Oh boy.
It wasn’t like I was drowning in dates, though, so we went out. And it wasn’t horrible. Seriously, it ended in us holding hands, which was sweet, but which was also initiated by her, and I would have felt bad telling her no. That it was too soon. That I was completely unsure if there should be a second date. Yet there was, and a third, and a fourth. All because I didn’t know how to approach her to say that I didn’t want to be her boyfriend.
But she told EVERYONE I was her boyfriend, maybe even before we even went on the second date. Our co-workers kept coming up to me at the circulation desk and congratulating me on being in a relationship. Now, I wasn’t afraid of commitment. Okay, maybe a teeny bit. But it seemed mighty presumptuous of her to go about it that way. And I was a jerk.
I can admit it now, but at the time it seemed only natural. I couldn’t tell her in person that I wanted to break up because I didn’t want to see the look on her face. And I didn’t know it was Valentine’s Day. Honestly. We hadn’t made any plans, which was of course another reason I didn’t know why she thought I was her boyfriend.
I found out later that she had been going to surprise me with a romantic dinner, which made things worse and better at the same time. Worse because I knew she was devastated. But better because at least we hadn’t gone through with that for me to just break her heart the next day. Or the one after. Who am I kidding? We would probably have 10 kids by now if I hadn’t sent that email.
She was understandably upset and didn’t speak to me for a month after that, which made work pretty damn awkward. I know now why people say never get involved with a co-worker. I tried to apologize (in person — go figure), but she wasn’t up for accepting it, or even listening to it. Eventually, though, we were able to mend those fences and coexist. We were never friends after that, but at least she wasn’t shooting daggers at me every time I came downstairs.
The experience taught me a huge lesson. I forget what it is now, but at the time it was huge. I realized she liked me a lot, while for me she was just someone to take up free time. It would have been great to me if she had just been a friend, but I don’t think she would have accepted just friendship from me.
And I promised her one day the following year when I was feeling introspective that I would never break up with anyone again over email. Thank god for the rise of texting.